Fantasy Land

March 8, 2013

Advocating at the national level for unachievable ideals not only diminishes the importance of those achieving reasonable accomplishments at the grassroots level, it also threatens the future of organized sports for the masses; and few organizations in a position to know better are doing as much to create these unintended consequences as the National Athletic Trainers Association.

It is a NATA-driven “Youth Sports Safety Alliance” that has developed a six-page manifesto for youth sports, including NATA’s “Secondary School Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights” which is mostly beyond the means of youth sports sponsors, and has marched to Capitol Hill to urge the federal legislature’s action to pursue those goals, among which is the conveniently unstated objective of advancing job opportunities and security for athletic trainers themselves.

MHSAA surveys indicate that, conservatively, fewer than 20 percent of Michigan high schools and junior high/middle schools have a full-time certified athletic trainer on staff.  In fact, only a minority of schools think such a full-time position is necessary, given other cheaper options available to them in the form of contracted services of medical groups and the volunteered services of many other medical professionals.  An even smaller minority has the means to pay for a full-time certified athletic trainer, given all the cuts in state aid to schools; and many schools – urban, suburban, rural and remote – wonder where in their communities they would find a certified athletic trainer if such were mandated everywhere.

NATA’s earlier recommendations in the extreme for acclimatization of players at the start of the football season have already resulted in a state law in Maryland that football coaches there criticize for leading to a less safe sport now that they have less time to teach technique and prepare players for first-game contact.  In theory, NATA’s notions are nice ideas; but in practice, they are less safe for the participants.  And anything that is less safe for the participants not only endangers today’s players, it also jeopardizes the future of the game.  Which, by the way, does nothing to enhance employment opportunities for trainers.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.